A judge in Puerto Rico has tried to re-ban same-sex marriage, by claiming the US Supreme Court’s ruling doesn’t apply there.
Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States and does not have full status as a US state.
After the Supreme Court ruled last May in Obergefell v Hodges that equal marriage is a constitutional right, Puerto Rico Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla allowed weddings to begin.
Two months later, a panel of judges cemented marriage equality in Puerto Rico by reversing a 2014 lower court ruling that upheld Puerto Rico’s marriage ban.
However, the judge who initially found against equality has struck back – and has today issued an order aimed at re-banning equal marriage.
US District Court Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez, who previously ruled against marriage equality, claimed that Puerto Rico “is not treated as the functional equivalent of a State for purposes of the Fourteenth Amendment”, and as such the Supreme Court ruling does not apply
He claims: “One might be tempted to assume that the constant reference made to the ‘States’ in Obergefell includes the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
“Yet, it is not the role of this court to venture into such an interpretation.”
He added: “The Constitution applies in full in incorporated Territories surely destined for statehood but only in part in unincorporated Territories”.
However, activists are confident that the ruling will be overturned on appeal – especially given Pérez-Giménez has previously had his judgements overturned on equal marriage.
Judge Juan Perez-Gimenez was just one of two district judges in the US to uphold a same-sex marriage ban in 2014, against a flow of rulings in favour of equality.
In his since-overturned 2014 ruling, Judge Perez-Gimenez cited a ruling from 1972 against same-sex marriage – which almost all other judges in the country agreed had been rendered obsolete by subsequent case law – and claimed: “Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law.”